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How do you support NNSA?

I am a Foreign Affairs Specialist responsible for nuclear material removal and elimination in the Americas and Middle East. I also lead an initiative on reducing the threats targeting nuclear infrastructure at decommissioning research reactors.

What is your personal or cultural background, and how has that shaped you and your approach to your career?

I am half Filipina. My mother is from the Philippines, and my father is German and Norwegian. I grew up in eastern Washington state with little to no diversity in the community.  I have a love of foreign languages and originally wanted to be a linguist. Because I grew up in a rural area, my high school only offered French, Spanish, and German. As my father’s side of the family is of German and Norwegian heritage, I started taking German in high school and excelled in it in college.

I soon realized I was interested in a more practical field and instead double-majored in German and International Studies, after which I hoped to be a Foreign Service Officer. I took a class that simulated the Six Party Talks to Denuclearize North Korea. It was this class that piqued my interest in nuclear security. We were divided into delegations, each representing the six parties involved in the negotiations. The political and diplomatic drama that unfolded was like a reality TV show, and it was so much fun – but most of all, I was fascinated by the nuclear security and nonproliferation subject matter.

One of my adjunct professors at the University of Washington worked at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and let me know about a Research Associate opportunity there. I landed the job out of undergrad and became even more invested in a career in nuclear security. I pivoted from dreams of the Foreign Service to devoting my career to nonproliferation. I left PNNL after almost three years and worked at the State Department, and later DOE/NNSA throughout graduate school at Georgetown University. I became a federal employee after I graduated and I have been with DOE/NNSA ever since.

My job necessitates that I work closely with international partners from all over the world. Given my multicultural background and the experiences I had growing up in a less diverse area, I try to approach my interactions with my international partners with as much respect and open mindedness as possible. By being aware of cultural sensitivities and nuances, I find that my partnerships are stronger.